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Spin for Stars: #6 - James Wood
Zac Beck debuts a new short series breaking down prospects at the request of Dynasty Dugout members.
Another spin of the roulette wheel, this one courtesy of Jeff Long (@BaysideJeff in the Dynasty Dugout Discord). Fate has led us to the towering former hardwood star and current Washington Nationals’ top prospect James Wood.
As a reminder, this series is based on the spin of a random number generator and is an exercise in diving deeper on prospects between full rank updates. The wheel is numbered 1 to 300, so we’ll get a wide array of names as we progress and it might lead to rank changes in real time. How exciting!
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James Wood, Outfielder
Team: Washington Nationals
Age / Height / Weight: 20, 6’7, 240 lbs
Overall Prospect Rank: 6
Positional Prospect Rank: 3
The first thing you’ve got to know about James Wood is that he has an outlier frame. Tall prospects are all the rage these days, and an ensemble of James Wood, Eury Perez, Andrew Painter, Elly De La Cruz, and Jordan Walker would be a formidable basketball team – let alone an outrageous combination on the diamond. Wood is listed at 6-foot-7, 240 lbs, but there is potential for even more growth given his age. He just celebrated his 20th birthday last September and has already reached Double-A Harrisburg in his third season as a professional.
He was originally drafted out of IMG Academy (FL., prep) in the second round of the 2021 draft (#62 overall). Even then the billing was extraordinary upside; his future raw power was given a 70 and scouts were impressed with his fleet-footedness for his frame. Swing and miss concerns bubbled up during the summer circuit and prep names like James Triantos, Joshua Baez, and Edwin Arroyo leapfrogged him. One camp of evaluators would tell you he has the tools to stick in center with an impact bat and the other camp argued just as enthusiastically that he’d be relegated to a first base-only role.
Since debuting in 2021 he’s amassed a coveted 3-4-5 triple slash (.310/.405/.547). The K issues some prognosticated for him haven’t totally materialized yet, but he’s also logged just 71 plate appearances above High-A. In that sample he has struck out at a 35.2% clip but managed to impact the ball with authority (10 of his 17 hits have been for extra bases). I am of the belief that the jump from A+ to AA is the biggest in all of minor league baseball and it’s clear he’s still adjusting to the level. Luckily he isn’t contending with the pre-tacked baseball that is being tested in the Southern League.
We’ll learn a lot about Wood over the remainder of the 2023 season. His long levers could be his undoing as he faces better pitching, but thus far he’s demonstrated an extraordinarily cerebral approach to hitting for his age. The hope is that he’ll develop the hand and wrist strength to shorten his swing (it can be a little whippy) and start gearing his bat path explicitly for lift. The way his body matures matters much more for his real on-field impact than it does for fantasy, but there is always the potential that he’s moved to a corner – whether that be in the outfield or the infield (and likely at first base if the latter, which, to be clear, I do not anticipate).
As it stands today he’s my number 6 prospect. There are only enough prospects ahead of him to count on one hand. I suppose we’ll do this stream-of-consciousness style; I’m moving him to 5 ahead of Junior Caminero. It’s neck-and-neck – I quite like that Caminero has curbed his propensity to strike out – but Wood’s ceiling outweighs all other prospects with the exception of Elly De La Cruz.